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Thread: Syria under Bashir Assad (closed end 2014)

  1. #241
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    Its unrealistic and snarky ,but considering what great evils the US may be about to unleash in Syria, i did think of a rant that goes like this:
    I think its a net positive for the US and the world if the US stays completely out of distant conflicts. I realize that there are several scenarios in which US intervention may appear desirable. But they are frequently mutually incompatible and contradictory. And in almost every case (from Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria and beyond) it seems that the US has no coherent policy and people trot out one or the other justification as needed and then play bait and switch or forget their own previous stance. For example:
    1. World cop. This obviously works if most of the world's powers actually agree a cop is needed and that the US is that cop. Its a great idea, but is it really what the US does well or can do?
    2. Imperialism. Suppose the US is an imperialist power making a move that will HELP said imperialist power in terms of money, influence, goodwill, whatever. Well, 2 trillion in the hole, what is there to show? IN any case, since many Americans WITHIN the ruling elite are conflicted about the notion of being an imperial power its hard to see how this could ever work. A lot of officials will not be clear about what they are doing. So they will make mistakes.
    3. Israel. Even this explanation is wearing thin. Suppose (for the sake of argument) that the US is actually doing all this to help Israel become X percent bigger. Does it actually help? Wouldnt it be cheaper to just buy Israel some more land.
    4. Do-gooder. Well, we need not bother with that story.
    So why not stay out? The only solid argument in favor of doing something is that otherwise a lot of people will become unemployed. But is there no way we can have all these people digging holes in their backyard and filling them in at 150 dollars an hour? that would be cheaper and less painful than mucking around in Syria as part of some confused imperialist plot.
    Seriously.

  2. #242
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    I think going in would be a good thing, but with provisos. If we knew enough about the players to pick a side. If we were willing to run that side strongly.
    Do you really think we're in a position to "run" a side at all, let alone strongly?

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    if we were really willing to back that side with whatever it took to win. if we actually decided we really wanted to win.
    We would need a clear idea of what a "win" would be. Have we got one?

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    If we were willing to tell the Russkis to go stuff it. If we told the Iranians they ain't seen nothing yet if they keep horsin' around. If we told Israel that the days of us dancing to their tune were over, they will survive as a state but we play the music. Same thing with the Gulf States, especially the Gulf states.
    We can tell the Russians, the Iranians, the Israelis, and the Gulf States any damned thing we please. They can and will tell us to go stuff it, and there will not be a thing we can do about it. What makes you think we're in a position to play the music and expect anyone else to dance? If you tell the Russians, Iranians, Israelis, or Gulf Arabs what to do and they tell you to stick it where the sun don't shine (which they will), what do you do about it?

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    And finally if we were willing to frankly explain all this to ourselves and how these efforts would benefit us and the whole region. The Americans would see it and go along in my opinion. The Americans would.
    I can't see how we'd explain that, because it wouldn't benefit us, or the region. You might get the notoriously credulous Americans to go along if you spun them a good enough tale, but why would the rest of the region go along, especially if part of the package is us telling everyone else what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    The problem is the inside the beltway elites won't do any of this stuff, so we shouldn't do it.
    They can't do any of that stuff. They haven't the leverage.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    But we will do it because there are bureaucratic bones to be made in the spook and State worlds; and political bones to be made elsewhere. They don't serve us anymore. They serve themselves.
    We may not do it, though it looms perilously close. I hope somebody in the picture has the fortitude to just say no, because I can see no upside whatsoever to "going in". We have no clear desired end state, at least none we can reasonably hope to achieve. We haven't the capacity to control our allies or our proxies. We will probably be worked by both. What's to gain?
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 06-19-2013 at 11:05 AM.
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  3. #243
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    Default Luttwak piece in Foreign Policy

    It's likely that many of you have already seen the following piece:

    Always bureaucratically adept, even if operationally incompetent in far too many cases, the CIA already has the Washington end of the action. But if weapons are to be supplied, it is essential to call on the only Americans who can tell the difference between Sunni bad guys who only want to oppress other Syrians and the really bad guys who happen to be waging their global jihad in Syria. What's needed are true experts, people who really speak the region's Arabic: the regular U.S. Army and Marine Corps officers who successfully sponsored and then effectively controlled the Sunni tribal insurgents in Iraq whose "awakening" defeated the jihadists who were attacking U.S. troops.
    This sort of splits the difference between the Coindinista/Cointra argument but only at its very edges. Certain skills are useful in retention, it seems, but a civil war with the US supporting one side is something altogether different than a colonial pacification.

    This is above my head, so interested in thoughts on the piece.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...syria?page=0,1

  4. #244
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    I’m not quite sure I buy that the CIA is operationally inept. I’m not saying that they aren’t, but given the nature of their operations, how would we know?

    And given Mr. Luttwak’s consulting work with the military I’m not quite sure that his piece doesn’t amount to concern trolling.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Default Good comment, ganulv

    But everything seems like some kind of trolling when it comes to foreign policy commentary these days, given the contracts and contacts and backgrounds of so many people involved writing pieces. Everyone has a consultancy.

    As for the CIA, I have no idea either but there is always a certain vibe from some writers that are former CIA that irritates - a certain vainglory. True for the military as well.

  6. #246
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madhu View Post
    But everything seems like some kind of trolling when it comes to foreign policy commentary these days, given the contracts and contacts and backgrounds of so many people involved writing pieces. Everyone has a consultancy.
    I also think there is something inherent in the publishing biz, especially the publishing online biz. I have been trying to break into freelance writing over the past few months and the experience has lead me to see some of what is going on behind the curtain as pieces make their way out for public consumption. A lot of the material that ends up online is space-filler. And if it gets more views via pushing buttons, all the better (for the publisher, editor, and author, at least; not necessarily for the public).

    Quote Originally Posted by Madhu View Post
    As for the CIA, I have no idea either but there is always a certain vibe from some writers that are former CIA that irritates - a certain vainglory. True for the military as well.
    I always wonder how representative those guys are. One of the things I know a lot about is anthropology. Most of the rock star anthropologists within academia and the few that from time to time get public notice are typically, at least in my opinion, good but not great. Chance and a talent for marketing themselves put them in the limelight.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  7. #247
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Mr. Luttwak stated:
    What's needed are true experts, people who really speak the region's Arabic: the regular U.S. Army and Marine Corps officers who successfully sponsored and then effectively controlled the Sunni tribal insurgents in Iraq whose "awakening" defeated the jihadists who were attacking U.S. troops.
    If he actually believes that, I think he is very mistaken as to what happened in Iraq when the Sunni tribes changed their minds. First off, those officers (like Cavguy) were experts in what was going on in their part of Iraq because they had been hanging around on the ground, in their part of Iraq, for a long time. And they were only so expert.

    Second off, I am not sure the tribes were sponsored or "effectively controlled" by anybody but themselves. They came to their own conclusions and we had people on the ground at the time who had the knowledge and capability to take advantage of that. Patriquin, McFarland and the guys describe in 'The Snake Eaters' aren't hanging out in schwarma shops on the outskirts of Alepo right now.

    Third off, the tribes in Iraq were, from what I've read, fairly cohesive social entities. When the sheiks changed their minds, it meant something. I don't know what the state of the tribes are in Syria. Does Mr. Luttwak?

    This statement by Mr. Luttwak seems facile. He also said this:
    Do not invite an equal and opposite response by another great power.
    The great power he is referring to is Russia. The Soviet Union was a great power. Russia is a demographic disaster ruled by a kleptocracy with an economy that is dependent, still, upon selling extracted resources. They are afflicted with a simmering insurgency (cies) in their south that they haven't been able to make go away in decades. Their military is not so hot. They may have been able to beat up on Georgia but that does not a 'great power' make them. In my view this statement by Mr. Luttwak ascribes power to a state that mostly is nervy.

    They will get away with that for only so long (hopefully).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7emAiiXpA8Y
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-20-2013 at 11:20 AM. Reason: Fix quotes
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  8. #248
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    I suspect Mr. Luttwak fancies himself a 21st century Herman Kahn.

    He's wrong.

    The article did make some good points, but failed dismally by not even raising the central question: Why should we do anything?

    We don't have any friends in this fight. I don't think there's any of them I'd WANT as a friend. At best, there are some innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Fine, let's establish protected safe havens. But as for the rest, as far as I'm concerned they can slaughter each other to their bloodthirsty, savage little hearts' content and Shaitan can sort 'em out.
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  9. #249
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    I am not sure the tribes were sponsored or "effectively controlled" by anybody but themselves.
    Very true, and Luttwak's demand that the US "lay some ground rules for the endgame" seems to me an exercise in fantasy. Various rebel groups will make whatever promises they think will get them equipped by the US. If they win, they will do what they want to do, not what they agreed to do. The idea that helping someone allows us to control that someone is utterly specious.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    The Soviet Union was a great power. Russia is a demographic disaster ruled by a kleptocracy with an economy that is dependent, still, upon selling extracted resources. They are afflicted with a simmering insurgency (cies) in their south that they haven't been able to make go away in decades. Their military is not so hot. They may have been able to beat up on Georgia but that does not a 'great power' make them. In my view this statement by Mr. Luttwak ascribes power to a state that mostly is nervy.
    True to some extent, but great or not, the Russians have sufficient leverage (nuclear and hydrocarbon) to be able to do as they please in the region without fear of direct repercussions. They don't have to be particularly great to provide the "equal and opposite reaction" that is feared. They can provide arms and assistance, and they can get away with it. Iran and Hezbollah aren't great powers either, but they can and will intervene, and the US capacity to control them is limited by domestic political imperatives. Deploying US forces against either is not something Americans are going to want to do, for excellent reasons.

    The whole mess illustrates why drawing red lines is such a bad idea. When those lines get crossed, you have to act, or seem impotent. That puts you in a position where your action is purely a response, and you're acting without clear, practical and achievable goals and in circumstances where no compelling US interest is at stake.

    J. Wolfsberger's central question remains rather conspicuously unanswered. Why intervene at all? What desirable and achievable end state are we pursuing here?
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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  10. #250
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Very true, and Luttwak's demand that the US "lay some ground rules for the endgame" seems to me an exercise in fantasy. Various rebel groups will make whatever promises they think will get them equipped by the US. If they win, they will do what they want to do, not what they agreed to do. The idea that helping someone allows us to control that someone is utterly specious.
    The way we do it, yes. And that is probably true in some cases no matter what. But I still think that if we played the game hard enough, we could exercise much much more control than we think possible.

    But that is really here nor there because we are so inept that we will be in effect slinging in weapons blindly. That isn't such a good thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    True to some extent, but great or not, the Russians have sufficient leverage (nuclear and hydrocarbon) to be able to do as they please in the region without fear of direct repercussions. They don't have to be particularly great to provide the "equal and opposite reaction" that is feared. They can provide arms and assistance, and they can get away with it. Iran and Hezbollah aren't great powers either, but they can and will intervene, and the US capacity to control them is limited by domestic political imperatives. Deploying US forces against either is not something Americans are going to want to do, for excellent reasons.
    Yes but what power they have I think is really a function of what we allow them to exercise, at least in Russia's case. That doesn't make it any less real on the ground in Syria, but it is what we allow.

    There are a lot of things we could do that don't involve troops on the ground. One thing that comes to mind is approving multiple LNG export terminals here in the US. That would be very bad for Russia because a few years after that, no more blackmailing the Europeans.

    Our Navy could be a bit of a lever too. There is lots of precedent for shoving people around, to be blunt about it, at sea without getting close to shooting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The whole mess illustrates why drawing red lines is such a bad idea. When those lines get crossed, you have to act, or seem impotent. That puts you in a position where your action is purely a response, and you're acting without clear, practical and achievable goals and in circumstances where no compelling US interest is at stake.
    Yep, to an extent. I fear ultimately our interests will be very much at stake, but I can't think of any good way, that the US leadership would actually do, to affect things.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    J. Wolfsberger's central question remains rather conspicuously unanswered. Why intervene at all? What desirable and achievable end state are we pursuing here?
    In an ideal world, turn Syria into Malaysia, but that ain't gonna happen. Or at least keep the thing from spreading too far, prevent an AQ emirate in east Syria and west Iraq and install a regime (not PC for sure) that wouldn't slaughter too many people and cause a lot of trouble. But we ain't capable of achieving that given our leadership. So it is a moot point.
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  11. #251
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    The way we do it, yes. And that is probably true in some cases no matter what. But I still think that if we played the game hard enough, we could exercise much much more control than we think possible.
    There are real world limits to how "hard" we are able to play, especially if playing hard means significant commitment of military or other resources. I'd submit that "playing hard" is only sensible if you have a clear, practical, and achievable goal, and I'm not at all sure we have that. I'm sure that with sufficient application of resources we could force certain events (like the fall of Assad) to happen. The extent to which we could exercise meaningful "control" of that process or its aftermath without undertaking an unacceptable commitment (occupation) remains very doubtful.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Yes but what power they have I think is really a function of what we allow them to exercise, at least in Russia's case. That doesn't make it any less real on the ground in Syria, but it is what we allow.
    Have we the capacity, realistically, to disallow any Russian action? We're not going to get into a shooting incident with the Russians over Syria, and they know it, which makes bluff a pretty pointless game. It's silly to issue ultimatums or draw lines in the sand if you don't have the means and will to take real meaningful steps to back them up and enough interest at stake to justify the costs and risks of backing them up.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    There are a lot of things we could do that don't involve troops on the ground. One thing that comes to mind is approving multiple LNG export terminals here in the US. That would be very bad for Russia because a few years after that, no more blackmailing the Europeans.
    I don't see the US exporting enough gas to Europe to significantly reduce dependence on Russia, and the Russians know that the current US gas glut will not last, given the overall US energy equation. I doubt they'd be deterred at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Our Navy could be a bit of a lever too. There is lots of precedent for shoving people around, to be blunt about it, at sea without getting close to shooting.
    Only works if they believe you'd be willing to escalate. We aren't willing. They know it.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Yep, to an extent. I fear ultimately our interests will be very much at stake, but I can't think of any good way, that the US leadership would actually do, to affect things.
    Interests will be affected no matter what the outcome, but I don't see how intervention will make that picture any better. It could make the picture a whole lot worse. Again, the first thing you need to justify intervention is a clear, practical, and achievable goal. Have we got one?

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    In an ideal world, turn Syria into Malaysia, but that ain't gonna happen. Or at least keep the thing from spreading too far, prevent an AQ emirate in east Syria and west Iraq and install a regime (not PC for sure) that wouldn't slaughter too many people and cause a lot of trouble. But we ain't capable of achieving that given our leadership. So it is a moot point.
    I'm not sure those are achievable with any leadership. It's easy to complain about lack of political will, but lack of the will needed to stick your tender bits into a meatgrinder seems to me eminently logical. Even the most peripheral mention of "installing" regimes should throw up a whole forest of red flags. Us getting involved is as likely to cause spillover and escalation as it is to prevent it. It's not a question of leadership. We have neither the desire nor the capacity to govern Syria, directly or by proxy, nor is it in our interests to try to govern Syria.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Default Fracture Lines: The Evaluating the Possibility of a Sectarian Future for Syria

    Fracture Lines: The Evaluating the Possibility of a Sectarian Future for Syria

    Entry Excerpt:



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

  13. #253
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    Default Did we all read the same paper?

    Luttwak states that he thinks the entire thing is a bad idea, but some military aid is now official policy.

    I thought he was just talking about vetting groups, not literally trying to recreate Anbar.

    It was for several good and solid reasons that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration long resisted pressures to intervene more forcefully in Syria's civil war. To start with, there is the sheer complexity of a conflict at the intersection of religious, ethnic, regional, and global politics, as illustrated by the plain fact that the most Westernized of Syrians (including its Christians) support the Assad government that the United States seeks to displace, while its enemies are certainly not America's friends and, indeed, include the most dangerous of Muslim extremists. But no matter: After two years of restraint, the administration -- having decided to send "direct military assistance" to the rebels -- has chosen sides and is now choosing sides within sides.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...g_rebels_syria

    It is now argued most authoritatively that U.S. President Barack Obama's failure to act decisively to remove Bashar al-Assad's regime from power in Syria is explained by internal divisions within his administration, miscalculations about the balance of power on the ground, and the president's own irresolution. There is another explanation, however: that the Obama administration is showing calculated restraint induced by bitter experience and, even more, by the overriding strategic priority of disengaging from the Islamic arc of conflict to better engage with China.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...d_enough_alone

    One comment I've read frequently is "if only we had intervened earlier, things would be different", the moderate opposition would be the main fighters and there would be no radicals involved.

    I don't see why people think that, earlier intervention doesn't preclude others arming competing groups. Once violence is unleashed, it's hard to predict the outcome.

    Ken White (he hasn't posted in a while, hope he's well) used to get it just right: most of what we do overseas is almost reactionary and based on domestic politics.

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    Default The world is never ideal

    carl,

    I'm not sure I follow your logic. I think intervention is a mistake on both humanitarian and realist grounds--I don't think I need to repeat my reasoning here--but what do you think the goal or goals should be? Proponents offer multiple and contradictory goals, at times. The things you mention have nothing to do with leadership, they are a contradictory and conflicting wish list. What is the ultimate goal, why is it the proper goal for the US, is it possible, what might be expected problems, and how much blood and treasure might be required to accomplish stated goal, it is even possible?

    (I may be excessively influenced by friends from the region, many Syrian Christians.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    I suspect Mr. Luttwak fancies himself a 21st century Herman Kahn.
    I think the comparison to Herman Kahn may be a little overdrawn. As I am sure you are aware, Luttwak has written 2 books in which he tries to spell out the "Grand Strategy" of the later Roman and Byzantine Empires. Arguably, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the USA stands as a modern analog to the Roman and Byzantine empires of the 1st to the 6th centuries AD. One might consider Luttwak's recent effort as a stab at educating the latest American leadership on lessons to be learned from the failed strategies of those two former world powers. Whether Luttwak has correctly identified the strategies of the Romans and Byzantines and whether the lessons learned are really applicable to America and the world of the 21st century are probably much more fruitful ways to criticize him.

    But, as pointed out, a cost benefit analysis ought to be the first order of business, with the bottom line being an answer to the question, "Does the US achieve a net gain by intervening?" I suspect a disinterested, rational calculation (one that avoids placing too much value on the need to demonstrate leadership's testosterone level) will identify a significant net loss to America.
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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madhu View Post
    Luttwak states that he thinks the entire thing is a bad idea, but some military aid is now official policy.
    After what you and wm wrote, I reread the article in (ahem) a less reactionary mode. You are both correct.

    That said, in response to both of you, I'd suggest that the most we should or effectively can do is help provide humanitarian aide and security for safe zones where those who wish can escape the slaughter.

    I think I'd also favor offering refuge to the Christian minority. No matter how this turns out, I don't foresee any future for Maronites or Chaldeans in the region.
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  17. #257
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    Default No easy options

    If there was ever a time for external US-led intervention in Syria that has passed; IIRC we discussed this two years ago, mainly in the context of imposing no-fly zones and internal safe havens.

    J Wolfsberger posted just:
    I'd suggest that the most we should or effectively can do is help provide humanitarian aide and security for safe zones where those who wish can escape the slaughter.
    Yes we, the West, could help with humanitarian aid, although I do wonder why the rich Arab nations have not been able to sign all the cheques.

    'Security for safe zones' is far more problematic. Safe zones outside Syria maybe easier, although both Jordan and Turkey have considerable numbers of refugees. Lebanon has fewer. Will 'security for safe zones' mean preventing their use as rear bases by the insurgents rather than guarding them against regime coercion?

    Personally I don't think the West should undertake such a 'security' role outside or inside Syria. A UN 'blue beret' presence I expect would be opposed by Russia and China; assuming Jordan and Turkey sought that.

    The Western experience in the ill-fated MNF in the Lebanon, even before the attacks on French paras & US Marine bases, is a more likely template. Oddly at least one UK analyst ignores that:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22967636
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madhu View Post
    carl,

    I'm not sure I follow your logic. I think intervention is a mistake on both humanitarian and realist grounds--I don't think I need to repeat my reasoning here--but what do you think the goal or goals should be? Proponents offer multiple and contradictory goals, at times. The things you mention have nothing to do with leadership, they are a contradictory and conflicting wish list. What is the ultimate goal, why is it the proper goal for the US, is it possible, what might be expected problems, and how much blood and treasure might be required to accomplish stated goal, it is even possible?

    (I may be excessively influenced by friends from the region, many Syrian Christians.)
    Madhu: Read what I wrote again, carefully. Then read what you wrote above. They don't seem to be related.
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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Madhu: Read what I wrote again, carefully. Then read what you wrote above. They don't seem to be related.
    I see the relation, and I was about to ask a similar question. You repeatedly suggest that there are options that would be possible or practical without what you seem to suggest are leadership constraints:

    The way we do it, yes.
    I still think that if we played the game hard enough, we could exercise much much more control than we think possible.
    I can't think of any good way, that the US leadership would actually do
    Or at least keep the thing from spreading too far, prevent an AQ emirate in east Syria and west Iraq and install a regime (not PC for sure) that wouldn't slaughter too many people and cause a lot of trouble. But we ain't capable of achieving that given our leadership
    If we were willing to tell the Russkis to go stuff it. If we told the Iranians they ain't seen nothing yet if they keep horsin' around. If we told Israel that the days of us dancing to their tune were over, they will survive as a state but we play the music. Same thing with the Gulf States, especially the Gulf states.
    The problem is the inside the beltway elites won't do any of this stuff
    All of this suggests a belief that viable options (hinted at, but never specified) exist that have a real chance of altering the state of affairs in a favorable manner, but that leaders are unwilling or unable to pursue them. I wonder what exactly those options are, and why you think they'd achieve anything.

    I, and I believe Madhu, believe that the problem is not leadership, but rather the inherent undesirability of intervening in a situation where we have no realistically achievable goal and where applying force is likely to forcefully dig us into a very unpleasant hole.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  20. #260
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Have we the capacity, realistically, to disallow any Russian action? We're not going to get into a shooting incident with the Russians over Syria, and they know it, which makes bluff a pretty pointless game. It's silly to issue ultimatums or draw lines in the sand if you don't have the means and will to take real meaningful steps to back them up and enough interest at stake to justify the costs and risks of backing them up.

    I don't see the US exporting enough gas to Europe to significantly reduce dependence on Russia, and the Russians know that the current US gas glut will not last, given the overall US energy equation. I doubt they'd be deterred at all.

    Only works if they believe you'd be willing to escalate. We aren't willing. They know it.
    My original narrow point regarding Russia was that Putinistan, a state with a lot of problems, punches above their weight because we ascribe to them power that they don't actually have. The above short list is a quite excellent illustration of the line of thinking that results in that.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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